"Bill's Mystery Woman"
Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, South Florida Insider Column, Friday, Nov. 26th, 2000, by Jose Lambiet:
The Prez may have a new favorite author. Hollywood, FL mystery writer Vicki Hendricks tells Insider she sent Bill Clinton an autographed copy of her steamy new novel, Iguana Love. The book stars a Miami woman at the mercy of uncontrollable sexual passions. It's printed by Serpent's Tail, publishers of Walter Mosely's detective novels, which Clinton also devours. But figuring out how the White House request got to Hendricks is a big mystery itself. Here's what is known: Hendricks heard from her publicist in Connecticut; the publicist was asked by an L.A. bookstore owner; and he was asked by his best customer, who happens to be a high-ranking federal official from D.C. "I want to protect his privacy, but the gentleman is our conduit to the president," L.A.'s Mysterious Books store owner Sheldon McArthur said. Mum is the word at the White House. But Hendricks, who teaches English at Broward Community College, emphasized the literary value of her work. "Still, had I known, I'd have put in a cigar scene," Hendricks said.
She signed: "For President Clinton, with delight." As a P.S., she asked Clinton to mention the book on TV and support community colleges.
Attractive and perverse, Ramona Romano is a thrill-seeking redhead addicted to adventure.
Here's what the critics say about Iguana Love:
"Hendricks's second novel hijacks crime fiction and rides it on the rapids of extreme sexuality, impulsive female violence, and parodic pornography. . . In stretching noir’s sexual borders so far, beating at the boundaries of gender in a style of deceptive intelligence and disconcerting wit, Hendricks has achieved something new."
— Nick Hasted, Independent on Sunday, London
"In that parallel universe known as noir, Vicki Hendricks has staked her claim--with a spear gun."
— Steven E. Alford, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"A red-hot tale of Miami vice with more lurid twists than a Florida hurricane. . . Intense, sweaty and wonderfully lurid, this is a roller- coaster ride through sin, drugs, and sexual action like you've never seen or dreamed of before."
— Time Out, London
"Florida drift culture in freefall . . . It reads loud and fast, boasts a voracious sexual appetite and, as things turn nasty, develops the dreamy slow- skid feel of a bad car crash."
— Chris Petit, The Guardian, Canada
"Hendricks writes in clear, crisp prose . . . will mesmerize readers."
— Lisa S. Nussbaum, Library Journal
"No one writes better about white trash gone bad. If James M. Cain were a woman and alive today, the postman would only ring once on the doors of the sultry Miami condos inhabited by Hendricks's characters in heat. Guaranteed to raise your temperature, whatever the weather."
— Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian, London
“A genuine stunner . . . Iguana Love is raw, graphic—at moments even a bit shocking—and as deliciously nasty a piece of work as you can find. Hendricks is Jim Thompson in a G-string”
— Jay Russell, Tangled Web
"Hendricks's first novel Miami Purity had James Ellroy 'baying at the moon like a Florida coon dog.' This one will probably have him humping her leg. Part thriller, part porn, part redneck comedy, Hendricks's novel is gleefully immoral, a style that relishes its own perversity and is seductive in its brutality. This is noir gone comic strip -- an anarchic romp among sex and muscle that unashamedly brings the two together."
— Graham Caveney, Arena, London
"A quick, compulsive read."
— Silvie Simmons, Heat, London
"A taut thriller . . . I urge you to read this book if only to experience its unseemly delights. Sordid, shocking, compulsive, and despite all that, enjoyable in a perverted kind of way. File under Scuba noir!"
— Charles Waring, Crime Time, London
Vicki talks about Iguana Love:
What do you think are the unique aspects of extreme sports and the culture that they have spawned?
I can only speak for skydiving, but I would say that extreme sports force you to look at your life on a moment by moment basis and accept your lack of control over the universe and your tiny place in it. Probably, statistically, driving from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami on I-95 is more dangerous than skydiving, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. Driving lulls you, whereas skydiving makes you accountable for each second. It's a continuous learning experience, conditioning your body to fly and maneuver, discovering your physical reactions, and evolving psychology comes from myself, I suppose, and I've never allowed myself to feel victimized by inequality. Although in the distant past I worked for less wages than men, etc., I've never been stopped from doing anything. I require the same amount of freedom as a man, and I have no problem taking it. In my writing I stay away from the flood of woman-as-victim propaganda--a million diseases, glass ceilings, abuse, molestation, rape. Dwell on it enough and you begin to feel it! I'm not about to. That doesn't mean my characters don't have problems—they have many, in order to be interesting. Ramona, for example, overdoes everything. But they always conquer in some respect. I think women can accept themselves—good or bad—as people, and men don't have a problem accepting that anymore either.
In Iguana Love Ramona has a voracious sexual appetite—do you think that women will have a difficult time coming to terms with her sexuality?
People told me something similar about Sherri in Miami Purity, and I was surprised. These are first-person narrators, so the reader is privy to all their inner thoughts. I really don't think either woman falls outside the normal range—near the top, perhaps. A man would be considered "virile," with a similar capacity for sex—maybe we need a word for a woman with their degree of heat, because I don't think it's unusual.
What do you hope will be the reaction of someone reading Iguana Love?
I hope readers will find it intelligent, unique, and interesting.
Do you think that there will be significant interpretative differences between men and women?
From my first novel, Miami Purity, I learned that men and women interpreted my strong, twisted narrator in the same way. Most people admired her determination despite her obvious errors in judgment. A few men I dated expressed some fear, however! I expect the reaction to be similar for Iguana Love.
What about Ramona Romano makes her the predatory female that she becomes in Iguana Love?
Ramona becomes predatory in response to Enzo's manipulation, which she has allowed to overcome her through her obsessive love for him. Enzo and Ramona are two of a kind, both in need of challenge, both bored by easy pickings, both like the reptile, the iguana, that cannot love and, therefore, presents a challenge. If the cold-blooded reptile or person ever returns love, the challenge is over and the positions reverse. Ramona is the iguana to her soon-to-be ex-husband, and Enzo is the iguana to her. Iguana love makes the world go 'round and 'round.
Does Ramona's quest for physical perfection come as a result of competing in a male dominated sport or stem from a need for acceptance?
Ramona's quest for physical perfection, I believe, comes physically from participating in high-stamina activities. It seems to me, physical activity naturally causes one to desire to be more active, stronger and better, and the quest for perfection and heightened sensation builds on itself. It's a natural process once the flow takes over. Of course, her obsessive love for Enzo causes her to do other things, such as get the breast implants. which she wouldn't have done otherwise.
Your books have been described as "noir." In fact, James Ellroy in describing Miami Purity said, "Miami Purity cooks white hot . . . This book is an instant red-neck idiot savant classic: so gruesome and deadpan outlandish that you wind up baying at the moon like a Florida coon dog." Do you think that you fit into the classic noir tradition?
I think my books stretch the noir tradition quite a bit. There are the expected triangles and dark characters, but I'm not so much concerned with the usual plots that make money the force behind all evil. The obsession and passion of the characters are the main features I find interesting. James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice was my inspiration for the first book—not for the plot, although it's wonderful—but for the deep dark madness and irony implicit in the characters. That's the part of noir I strive to preserve.
The "redneck idiot savant classic" is also an interesting category! I think I might be the only one in there.
What is the role of women in noir? Do you think your heroines fit that or defy it?
Women have always been strong and twisted in noir, and I think I keep up that tradition very well. Often the woman was seen as the betrayer, however, and generally the man takes that part in my plots. Perhaps this is only because my protagonists are women and the antagonists are men, opposite of the well-known classics, and the betrayer role simply works more naturally for the antagonist, whether male or female.
Why is noir writing so popular now in both films and books? What does it say about our culture?
I don't know why it's so popular—trends come and go regularly. Personally, I've been in love with noir since I found it, a natural inclination. I suppose general economic stability allows people, far-removed from the situations, to feel secure enough to take pleasure in observing someone else's seedy lifestyle and problems, again perhaps, relating more to the noir that's centered on theft and con. No matter what kind of writing is popular, it's always about trouble, because undisturbed good fortune is dull. We'd all like to live perfect lives, but nobody wants to read about them.